Friday, July 27, 2007

back from boston

no time to work out all the details just now. but my trip to boston was reinvigorating and refreshing and challenging and tiring (in a good way) and full, full of serious coffee considerations. what would you expect from the boys of barismo? seriously, more soon. i'm shot, though. i'm heading to dream about what a real shot of northern italian from george should taste like. meantime, you can head over to my flickr site to view the boston pics.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

several trips in one, part three

this is the final post in the series recapping my recent ventures. it's mostly an update on the ongoing project i'm undertaking in building a roaster. since my father in law is the hands on expert with his engineering background and know-how, and since he summers in indiana and i live in texas, it's important for me to check in regularly and see how the project is progressing and help answer as many questions as possible as we're (he's) building the thing we come up with.

so it was a great chance to visit the roaster to be at the tail end of our trip and see what's up first hand. included are some pics of the

since most of the stuff for the roaster are either displaced, disused or otherwise raw materiel, the cost thus far has been negligible. absolutely nothing yet has been special ordered, including the steel for the drum and chaff cyclone (that will soon change), and is being constructed of "junk" parts: a used gas stove; a thrown out fan; a rotisserie motor; etc. thank you, mostly, purdue university junkyard!
this will not be a roaster that wins any awards for aesthetics. sure, it will have some shiny parts on the outside. but anyone who notices that the external housing for a chaff collector, for example, is a used beer keg, or used gas stove burners, will get the idea of what we're going for here: functionality over beauty.

a lot of this stuff has been compiled doing basic internet research. thank you google. i have not been able to get a hold of actual roaster diagrams, which would help us immensely (if anyone has them in pdf, that would be amazingly cool). and some bits and pieces may or may not have actual uses when it's all said and done--an electronic "sequencer" that can execute multiple commands based on certain pre-set parameters (perhaps can be tied to temp sensors and sequenced to aid in pre-heating and cool down operations); or pieces of metal sheeting that may/may not be used as baffles to differently distribute heat from the burners.

as i mentioned, the need for special order materials will be showing up soon and that's where the (relative) expense will come in. but even still, when i look at the costs of having a roaster built by, say, a roaster building company, i am making out like a bandit in terms of costs saved. the good news about that is that normally one could say, "you get what you pay for" as far as building something so technically precise out of junkyard parts. as i've mentioned in previous posts, though, my father in law more than makes up for that otherwise deficiency with his technical and mechanical expertise. i am supremely confident in his ability to execute in the shop the plan we hatch on the drawing board.

obviously, there is still a ton more work ahead than is behind. but the broad skeleton is forming nicely and i am told the meat on the bones and the final touches will be done by late september/early october. and i can't wait.

thanks to everyone who has contributed opinions/wish-list items so far. keep the suggestions coming and again, if you have actual technical manuals you wouldn't mind forwarding to me, feel free.

thus, having spent a day and a half in the shop going over what has been done so far and talking about where to go from here, i left indiana comfortable in the knowledge that brown will soon have a very cool piece of home-cooked equipment that will look none-too-appealing, but will definitely pull its weight technically and volume wise. i arrived back in san antonio having taken a whilrwind trip through lots of coffee events and returned all the richer for it and ready to keep building this tiny, fledgling coffee company into its next stages and beyond.


Monday, July 09, 2007

several trips in one, part two

we left tulsa later than scheduled because your humble blogger was busily engaged behind the la marzocco gb/5 at kokoa's second store, tracking pseudo-scientifically three separate profiles for the custom espresso brown created for kokoa. x seconds pre-infusion; y temperature. taste and make some notes. b seconds pre-infusion; c temperature. more notes and on the fly empirical comparisons. d seconds pre-infusion; e temperature. collate information and run the three again, only this time in reverse order, just for flow and to trick our palates a bit.

there sat my wife and two beautiful children patiently as we pulled shots after shots and compared notes, the manager and i, on what we liked at how many grams and so forth. this is critical work to be done and i feel extremely fortunate to have the chance to sort through it all in person as, again, i live eight hours to the south and don't figure to be able to just pop up to tulsa from san antonio at the drop of a hat.

anyways, we zeroed in on what we thought was an appropriate profile sequence and off i went with my amazing family to st. louis and the as-yet-to-be-determined rendezvous point where my in-laws would be meeting us to take my better half and our offspring the rest of the way up to lafayette, indiana. i, on the other hand, had a pick up of my own to make at the st. louis airport. my friend was flying in from california that afternoon and together he and i were to drive due north to what is my annual pilgrimage of amazing music and the fantastically rich depth of culture that is the life of faith in Christ (a life most outside observers simply have no inkling about) known as cornerstone festival. say what you will about a "christian music festival." but if scoffing is your agenda then you have no hope of grasping the breadth and width of what an event like this means to the ritual and tradition of a life freed from the cares and concerns of this world.

i digress. the highlights of the week at cornerstone were hanging with our friends and brothers from one of my favorite bands, questions in dialect, who played a simply mind-blowing set in front of hundreds of eager listeners. we sold a lot of merch, took lots of fun pics and had an all around great week seeing more bands than i can even recall right now. (credential and brave new world are two newer labels putting out some interesting bands, just as a quick tip...)

anyways, cstone wrapped up on saturday night with some sweet screamo and hardcore on the main stage from the likes of august burns red, emery, norma jean and underoath
but by early sunday morning my friend sean and i had said our goodbyes and were heading up to the windy city to meet my lovely wife for a day trip around town before heading back down to lafayette that night. unfortunately, we were famished by the time we arrived in chicago. fortunately, the taste of chicago was going on and we soon found ourselves surrounded by southern barbecue ribs, cuban pork sandwiches, indian mango chutneys, new york chocolate cheesecakes and of course, tons of deep dish chicago-style pizza. we ate until we couldn't hardly see straight. but i had other venues on my mind...

so we headed north just a few blocks on foot, past the ridiculatrons on the street with their embarrassingly derivative and shallow honk-for-peace protest posters with lazy analogies such as bushitler, america as terrorists and that stupidly uninformed number of 655,000 iraqis dead since the start of the war. normally i would relish in the opportunity to set morons like this straight about such misinformation/disinformation; but as i said before, i had other venues on my mind.

intelligentsia operates a sweet little place just a couple blocks off millenium park. of course, all the hype an operation such as this generates means my expectations were sky high. their reputation is held in such high regard by people who are held in high regard, so i was naturally eager to see for myself whether the reality lived up to the online buzz.

in a word, it didn't. it so clearly surpassed my expectations and hopes that i was filled with renewed vigor and enthusiasm for what i do in my own little corner of the coffee world. it is so rare to walk into a venue and see just about every detail of excellence being executed dead red on the money: from dosing, distributing, tamping and pulling great shots of black cat to extracting a delectably complex cup of anjilanaka, direct trade organic bolivia on the clover that, from their online descriptions, i couldn't decipher whether it was the big lot or the micro-lot. nonetheless, it was nearly flawless. here's what i got from it: very citrusy and crisp with good fruit like golden raisins and lime peels that dried up like the parting of the red sea in the leave. sounds macro. and i mean crisp, defined finish line that was licking-the-inside-of-a-walnut-shell dry. (i don't mean that as a negative description; it was super good and complex and took a quality turn i don't normally experience...always a plus in my book.) my friend and wife both noticed those same characteristics on their own (my wife cups better than me!) and so based on the predominantly crisp and clean profile we were experiencing, and based on the paltry $2.65/cup price tag, i'm gonna hazard that it was the macro lot and not the micro lot. anyone know for sure? in all, after a small clover cup and a double ristretto for me, a double for sean and an iced latte for my wife our overall first impression of this intelligentsia branch was one of solid praise and nary a negative to be spoken. well, one negative, i guess. i understand that there is an upstairs at this location (?) and i would have loved to spend some extra time over another clover cup and soak up that atmosphere as well. but we had a good vantage point downstairs where we were of what should be agreed upon as truly one of the best operations in america today. hats off to them for a fine display of operational excellence.

more later on chicago and the rest of the trip in the next and final episode, part three: building the roaster from scratch.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

going, going

fvh shirts are going pretty quickly. if you want one you should act soon.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

several trips in one, part one

what a whirlwind i have just returned from! it's very nice to be able to take a 'vacation' and have it tied largely to work (read: tax write off). i was fortunate enough to be able to do just that this past week as i traveled over 2500 miles on our federal interstate highway system across this great country of ours. this recap will not capture every detail of my trip; each of these segments of my trip do and may merit their own individual posts at some point in the future. but here's the first part of the trip: from san antonio to tulsa.

first up in our trip was dallas and the scrbc. this was held at the s.w. food expo and although it didn't get a lot of attention tucked away in the corner of the expo hall it was nonetheless a huge step forward in the emergence of texas baristaness as a viable player in the national scene. yes, it's true that we are still miles behind our comrades across the rest of the country. but my honest feel is that we posted loud and clear that we are ready to enter the same arena and learn and grow and make our own waves. congrats to patrick, clancy and jason for great presentations and for taking us to the next level. here's to many more levels in the very near future.

yes, in some ways this event had that slapped together feel. i feel this came as a result of the fact that we have never done/seen this type of thing before. but we'll get better and now that we've been there and done that you can be sure that that famous texas pride will not let us hang down in the "also ran" category for long. you have to give huge props to mike for putting in untold massive amounts of time to make this event run as well as it did. simply massive.

i left dallas even before the final round was completed and winners announced because we had to be in tulsa that evening for an event that would highlight the entire trip for me. i was set to visit one of my newer wholesale clients, kokoa chocolatier, and be their guest for a monthly dinner event they host. normally, kokoa is a chocolatier serving full plated desserts in the evening and a lite food menu for lunch. twice a month on consecutive days, however, they host a full-on dinner that pairs foods with wines and chocolates and yes, even coffees. i had faint idea what i was getting myself into as i stepped into the store, having only personally met the manager for the first time just minutes earlier. but as i sat down and looked over the eight course meal it began to hit me and the thought became louder and louder in my head: this is a good match for brown. (hate to say it in print, but) sometimes as a wholesaler you sell to people because you need volume and cash. sometimes, as in this case, however, you realize you really do have a good match. kokoa is a great example of that. they are quality driven, aesthetically concerned for all their products, they care highly about service and they love their customers. i sat through my eight course, $135-a-head meal and just spun. my head spun. my spirit spun. i knew this was right and good and worth growing a serious relationship with this client. especially when the last course was presented: a plate of freshly prepared cream, small chocolate brownie wedges, freshly sliced strawberries and shortbread cookies, presented cleanly on a plate and paired with the private house blend kokoa and brown have collaborated on. the dessert course was simple and phenomenal and paired perfectly with the coffee.

and of course, it helped cement the match (and really boosted my ego) as some of the dinner guests approached me and said they were big fans of my coffee. it is a very surreal experience to introduce yourself to someone(s) and have them say, "oh we know who you are, aaron!" it is perhaps even more divine to visit a client who is distance-prohibitive and see all the coffee pieces working together flawlessly in nearly the exact way you would do it yourself.

next time you're in tulsa, oklahoma, make sure you visit them at one of their two locations.

part two will discuss the next leg of the trip including a visit to a coffee retailer using a clover. i also hope to expound on some of the ramifications of this trip for brown as a business as a result of this trip and these experiences.

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